Government announces payment to assist women escaping family violence

By Melissa Coade

Monday October 18, 2021

Anne Ruston
Anne Ruston announced $23.4 million for Find and Connect Support Services. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

A one-off payment of $5,000 from the federal government will be available to women escaping violent relationships, from Tuesday.

The support includes financial assistance of up to $1,500 in cash and other payments to go towards rental bonds, school fees and other essential goods and services to set up a safe home.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in six women in Australia have experienced partner violence, and on average one woman is killed by their partner or former partner every week. 

Women’s safety minister Anne Ruston announced a two-year trial of the $144.8 million scheme on Sunday. She said that the payments aimed to address common barriers for women escaping family violence such as financial hardship and economic abuse.

“The payments will assist people who need financial support to leave,” Ruston said.

“We know the size of the house a woman is fleeing doesn’t matter – often she bundles the kids into the car, maybe the dog too and they leave with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.”

The government has picked the Uniting Care Australia Consortium to deliver the payments to eligible program participants. The service provider has also been tasked with referring women and children fleeing violence at home with other (commonwealth and state-funded) support services.

To be eligible for the payment, women must be experiencing financial stress and show evidence of domestic violence (this can include but is not limited to a referral from a family and domestic violence service provider with a risk and safety plan, an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO), and a court order or police report). 

The assistance will not be reportable income and exempt from tax. It will also have no bearing on any social security payments that a client may also receive.

Claerwen Little, the national director of the Uniting Care network, said her organisation had extensive experience supporting victim-survivor clients who were escaping situations of domestic, family and/pr sexual violence. The Uniting Care Australia Consortium would use this understanding to deliver a ‘wrap-around’ service for women and their children escaping unsafe situations, she said. 

“We believe that all people, especially women and their children, have the right to live freely and without fear, and this payment is an important step forward to ending violence against women and their children,” Little said.

“As part of the individualised support packages, UnitingCare Network agencies will provide tailored assistance and engage with other relevant agencies that support women and their children including other commonwealth or state and territory government funded community services.”

This new payment scheme builds on other initiatives of the federal women’s safety package that was costed at $1.1 billion in the 2021-22 women’s budget statement. It complements other existing programs led by the state and territory governments to support women escaping violence including:

“The new escaping violence payment aims to help address those issues so women have more security when making that brave decision to leave any form of intimate partner violence – including physical violence, coercive control and financial abuse,” Ruston added. 

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